1866 – 2016

Colonel Steuart Elected Health Officer

December 24, 1849

Colonel Steuart Elected Health Officer

On motion of Col. Steuart, chairman of the committee of health and police to whom was referred the reporting of ordinances for the government of the health officer for the Port of San Francisco the following ordinance as adopted: In relation to the duties of a Health Officer, and prescribing the powers, by the Ayuntamiento of San Francisco, in Town Council assembled. Be it ordained: Section 1. A health officer shall be annually appointed for the port of  San Francisco, whose powers and duties shall be as hereinafter enumerated, until further provided for by enactments…

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Paid Department

December 3, 1866

Paid Department

An Act to Establish a Paid Fire Department for the City and County of San Francisco. The Act provided for a five man Board of Fire Commissioners to manage the affairs of the Department. The Fire Department consisted of a Chief Engineer, two Assistant Chiefs, one Corporation Yard Keeper and six steam fire engine companies. Each engine company was to have one foreman, one engineer, one driver, one fireman, and eight extra or “call” men. There were two Hook-and-Ladder Companies each consisting of one foreman, one driver, one tiller man and twelve extra…

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Chief Scannell

April 3, 1871

Chief Scannell

Chief Scannell was very popular and his appointment gave general satisfaction, not only in the city, but in all surrounding districts. Some five hundred members of the former volunteers paraded through the streets in warm appreciation of the appointment of their old Chief. In 1871 while Scannell was Chief, a disastrous fire on Market Street exposed several weak spots in the Fire Department. The fire was in the Harpending Business Block, a group of eight, three story brick building. No department ladder could reach the top of the third story, and several of those used,…

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1906 Earthquake

April 13, 1906

1906 Earthquake

No alarm sounded for the greatest disaster that ever devastated San Francisco. The first jarring shock of the earthquake that struck the City on the morning of April 18, 1906 broke five hundred and fifty-six of the six hundred batteries that operated the fire alarm system, effectively silencing it. Within a few hours, fifty-two fires had started. Before the flames were extinguished three days later, an estimated four hundred and seventy eight persons were dead, and the property loss was over $350,000,000. The area burned was 4.7 square miles, which included the entire…

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Horse Drawn Ambulances

November 15, 1906

Horse Drawn Ambulances

San Francisco has a long history of providing Emergency Medical Services to its citizens, beginning back in the days when ambulances were drawn by horses. Police patrol wagons were the earliest ambulances, but by 1906 the Department had at least one horse-drawn ambulance.

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Motorized Ambulances

November 15, 1938

Motorized Ambulances

San Francisco’s ambulance service began in 1895 with one horse-drawn Studebaker wagon.  In order to provide medical care as soon as possible, ambulances were staffed with interns from the medical school or (male) registered nurses.  The Emergency Service obtained its first vehicle ambulance in 1912, and by 1915, the entire service leapt into the 20th century and converted to motorized ambulances. By World War I, horse-drawn ambulances had been replaced by motorized vehicles, although the first use of motorized ambulances was during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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2 Way Radios in Ambulances

November 15, 1950

2 Way Radios in Ambulances

Two-way radios provided in ambulances throughout the city.

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13 Ambulances, 5 in Operation 24 Hours

November 15, 1953

13 Ambulances, 5 in Operation 24 Hours

City of San Francisco has 13 ambulances, 5 in operation 24 hours a day.

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The Phoenix Fireboat – 1954

November 14, 1954

The Phoenix Fireboat – 1954

The “Phoenix” went in service in 1954 as the successor of two steam-powered Fireboats, City owned, the “David Scannell” and the “Dennis T. Sullivan.”  These two vessels served the City well for 45 years from 1909 until their age presented maintenance problems that were too costly to solve. Prior to the launching of the “Phoenix” the Port Authority, in a public contest, encouraged San Franciscans to suggest a name for the craft and the name chosen was suggested by a member of the Phoenix Society, Edward Pendergast. Briefly here are a few statistics…

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Apparatus – Engine No. 36

November 14, 1958

Apparatus – Engine No. 36

Builder:  American LaFrance, Elmira, New York  A Continental V-8, 300 HP gas motor and a 1000 GPM 2-stage centrifugal pump, 400 gallon water tank and 2 booster reels with 200 feet of 1 inch rubber hose, open cab with jump seats. Manufacturer’s Number: SFFD Shop Number: TC-6,   (TC = triple combination.) City & County Number: 145-506 (applied 1970) Crew: Officer and 5 Firemen. Members of engine companies could and can be identified at fires and other emergencies by their all black helmets. Service History: 1958   Engine Company No. 36, 551 – 26th Avenue 1970   August 11th, motor replaced with a…

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Loma Prieta Quake and Fire

November 14, 1989

Loma Prieta Quake and Fire

On October 17, 1989, soon after Loma Prieta Earthquake hit the Bay Area, the Department announced a recall of all off-duty personnel.  Every available member of Station 10, at 655 Presidio Avenue, twenty three in all, reported for duty. (One member was on vacation in England. He cancelled his trip and returned to the City.)  Upon arriving at the fire station, the recalled members found the regular in-service rigs, Engine 10 and Truck 10 already at work at the fire in the Marina which was within the station’s first alarm area.  Richard Bracco, the…

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EMS Merges with SFFD

November 14, 1997

EMS Merges with SFFD

In 1997, the Department of Public Health, Paramedic Division merged with the San Francisco Fire Department.  This merger placed ambulances at Fire Stations and adjusted the paramedic work schedule to 24-hour shifts.  During the years 1999 through 2004, the Department developed the implementation of paramedic-staffed engine companies, bringing a higher level of care to patients faster.   Beginning in 2004, a reconfiguration of ambulance deployment was implemented, moving the 24-hour station-based ambulances to short-shift strategically-placed ambulances.  As part of the reconfiguration, geographically-relevant posting locations have been implemented for the positioning of ambulances, and the…

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Newsom Names Female Fire Chief

January 11, 2004

Newsom Names Female Fire Chief

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made his first high-profile appointment a historic one Saturday, selecting Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White to head the Fire Department, the first time a woman has been picked to lead a major city’s fire department in the country. Newsom praised Hayes-White, a 14-year veteran and San Francisco native, but downplayed the significance of her gender, saying he selected the best candidate for the job. But he also recognized that the selection represented a dramatic turnaround for a department that was the last big-city fire agency to hire…

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